What Are the Dangers of Taking Expired Medications?


With the rising cost of medicines and prescriptions these days, many people are risking their health to save a few dollars by taking medications that have passed their expiration date. While this might save money in the short term, there are a great many dangers associated with taking drugs past the time that the manufacturer says it's all right to take them.

Expiration Date

An expiration date is assigned by the manufacturer of a drug to represent its shelf life. A drug, like any chemical compound, tends to break down over time. Liquids separate into layers, and solids may become powders. The expiration date represents the time in which the medication is viable and will have the desired result.


One of the risks of using expired medication is that it's very likely to be ineffective. This means that, while the drug isn't actively harming your system, it also isn't fighting the disease it's meant to fight.


A secondary problem with expired and ineffective medication is that it can give you a false sense of security. While you're sick and should be taking real medicine, you're taking an ineffective one that's past its expiration date. As a result, sickness that may have been prevented or ended early progresses and becomes worse than it ever should have been.


The chemicals in medications, once expired, may form into different compounds. What's perfectly safe before an expiration date could very well turn into something poisonous once the compound breaks down into its separate components. This could, in theory, be worse than the condition the medicine was meant to treat.


If a medicine's expiration is in doubt, take it to a pharmacy or to a doctor. This is one of the surest ways to find out whether a medicine is still viable. If a medication has expired, be aware of how to properly dispose of it. Flushing it or pouring it down the drain might lead to contamination of your area's water supply, particularly if the medicine's chemical breakdown has made it toxic. Throwing it in the trash may contaminate the soil eventually. Ask your pharmacist if she has a recycling program, or contact your local hazardous waste disposal department.

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